With the Boston Bruins at an extreme crossroads, it felt like now was the perfect time for a Hagg Bag mailbag with the Bruins in the middle of a stunningly bad stretch where they simply don’t have enough offense. The B’s have lost seven of their last 10 games, averaged two goals per game over that period of time and are barely holding onto their spot in the East Division playoff structure as the fourth-place team with the Philadelphia Flyers nipping at their heels.
Should Don Sweeney pull the trigger on a massive move to shake up a hockey club that really seems to be regressing as the season goes along? How much are the injuries and the compacted schedule impacting the B’s and the way they’re playing right now?
Are the Bruins destined to miss the postseason with a club that really looks like they are missing the presence of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, and sure could have used another offensive hand like Mike Hoffman when so many were available at bargain basement prices this offseason?
There’s a lot to talk about here. As always these are real questions from real Boston Bruins fans sending tweets to my account using the #HaggBag hash tag and submitting messages to my Facebook fan page. Now let’s crack open the bag:
What’s [Don Sweeney] gonna do bring Backes back? He didn’t address defense or top 6 forward in off season and now we see what happens when you lose players to injury. You gotta spend money to keep up with top teams Donnie #LetsGoBruins
–Ronnie Berard (@BerardRonnie)
JH: There’s no doubt that the Boston Bruins are under the gun now to make a move. They are missing four defensemen due to injuries right now and all of them are the big, stout stay-at-home shutdown types that the B’s rely on for their penalty kill, their D-zone coverage and even their puck retrieval and breakouts.
And it’s also not surprising that the Bruins are 24th in the NHL in offense averaging a paltry 2.63 goals per game. The teams below them (Senators, Red Wings, Devils, Predators, Coyotes, Ducks and Sabres) are the worst in the league and the Bruins are slowly sinking down to that level as they scrape and scrounge for goals. Then you have Mike Hoffman with eight goals (all but one of them during 5-on-5 play) and a plus-11 in 28 games with the St. Louis Blues playing for a pittance.
The Bruins could have had that if they wanted it and Hoffman’s seven even-strength goals would rank third on the B’s just behind David Pastrnak. That probably would have helped the Black and Gold this season while Ondrej Kase can’t even get back on the practice ice, wouldn’t it?
So, what are the Bruins going to do?
I don’t think any of the solutions are going to be perfect. Taylor Hall isn’t really a pure goal-scorer and, with the exception of one season in New Jersey, he really doesn’t seem to make the players around all that much better. Gritty Predators D-man Mattias Ekholm would be a great fit for the Bruins, and he would address a lot of needs caused by injuries and the free agent departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, but he’s not going to move the needle a ton offensively.
Maybe Rickard Rakell could be a good fit as a back-to-back 30-goal scorer in Anaheim during his recent past, but I’d also be wary if I was Sweeney of collecting too many ex-Ducks forwards up front. If any of those guys were actually that good, then the Ducks wouldn’t be Western Conference doormats like they are annually now.
The question really becomes how much are the Boston Bruins willing to spend at the trade deadline for a hockey team that might not have the goods to be a legit Stanley Cup contender this season? Would you trade a first-round pick or a prized prospect like Jakub Lauko for a team that looks too long in the tooth in spots and is clearly in a bit of a transition phase right now with a veteran core group that’s implementing a lot of young talent like Trent Frederic, Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen this season?
That’s a tough call realistically if I’m the GM.
Can we trade Jake DeBrusk for Jake from State Farm, straight up?
JH: He does have a nice pair of khakis, doesn’t he? I think DeBrusk certainly could be on the move, but the shame of it for the Boston Bruins is that some of the shine is definitely off him as a trade asset. Other teams see the struggles he’s had in Boston and the fact he hasn’t been able to take that next step in his development as a top-6 winger. He won’t be the centerpiece in a big deal for the Bruins. Instead, he may be a change-of-scenery move where the Bruins would get a player in a similar situation like the Danton Heinen-for-Nick Ritchie deal last season.
The bottom line is that he has more value to the Bruins if he can finally “get it” at 24 years old and bring that complete game on a regular basis. DeBrusk has it in him to play, produce and be an impact winger on a more regular basis. Maybe this season’s wakeup call will have some lasting effect on his game and make him better. He’s certainly still young enough, conscientious enough and self-aware enough to turn it around, but it’s going to take breaking out of some bad habits of coasting that he’s developed over the last two seasons.
just for fun, what would the Bruins need to give up for Eichel? Don’t hold back haha.
JH: I think they would have to give up David Pastrnak (no shot, as I don’t think anybody aside from Tony Mazz would do that straight-up from a Bruins perspective) or Charlie McAvoy (once again a non-starter for the Boston Bruins) because the B’s don’t have the blue-chip prospect or attractive first round picks to get it done with Buffalo.
The most incredible clip in Felger and Mazz history: Mazz says he’d rather trade David Pastrnak than Brandon Carlo for Sidney Crosby. WILD. pic.twitter.com/h6UEOYoH25
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) February 18, 2021
The Sabres are at a point where they need young, established impact players at the NHL level rather than picks or prospects that are years away from contributing, and the Bruins aren’t going to part with their best players in that category. So, the HF Boards trade scenarios of Sean Kuraly, Nick Ritchie, Dan Vladar and a first-round pick aren’t going to get it done for Eichel.
Beyond that, Eichel is currently injured and making so much money that an in-season trade really isn’t in the cards. It could/would make salary cap sense once they’ve cleared David Krejci’s contract from the books after this season is over, but (this humble hockey writer’s opinion) it just doesn’t look like any of the stars are going to align for Eichel to end up in Boston.
Which character has DC mistreated the most in their films?
JH: Superman. No contest. Zack Snyder doesn’t like Superman and really has no use for his earnest, old-fashioned goodness as he makes cynical, dark and Christopher Nolan-wannabee superhero movies. I haven’t watched the Snyder cut of Justice League yet, but I’ve heard the Superman character is only in the move for like 10 minutes.
And this is after making him a tormented God-complex figure in the other two movies featuring the character. As somebody that grew up and loved the Christopher Reeve version of Superman, it bums me out to see what Snyder has done to basically ruin the character for a generation.
And it’s too bad because I think Henry Cavill could have been a great Superman if given the chance.
The good news: Superman & Lois on the WB features an actor named Tyler Hoechlin that is playing classic Superman and doing it on a very good show. It’s certainly worth checking out.
— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) February 24, 2021
So, it poses the question Joe, should the Boston Bruins use [Daniel Vladar] as trade bait, Swayman needs to be NHL tested surely, but if we have 2 goalies that can take over after Tuukka one or the other could be offered up in a package for a 2nd line winger and depth scoring.
–Vincent Price (Message via Facebook page)
JH: I definitely think Jeremy Swayman has the better long-term future as the No. 1 guy between the pipes for the Bruins, as I referenced the other day when I wrote advocating that Swayman get Tuesday night’s spot start against the Penguins. But Vladar is also most definitely talented, he’s worked hard and paid his dues in the minors and He gives them a different look in net as a massive 6-foot-5 puck-stopper.
Could he eventually have some value as a trade asset to a hockey team in need of a goalie? Maybe. But goalies in general aren’t considered big value trade chips most of the time and he would have to be packaged with something else to get a second line winger, scoring or defensemen depth.
Matt Murray won Cups in Pittsburgh and he was traded for a second-round pick and a prospect in Jonathan Gruden that was initially a fourth round pick, and projects to be a bottom-6 forward at the NHL level.
Longtime Minnesota Wild starter Devan Dubnyk was traded to the San Jose Sharks for a fifth-round pick. Perhaps the best comparable would be Jake Allen, and he was traded with a seventh round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for a third round pick and a seventh round pick. So, if anything, the Bruins are looking at a draft pick for Vladar if he looks like a franchise guy at this point. Maybe the market will change, and cheap, young goalies will become a more valuable commodity, but I don’t really see it at this point.
Time to bring Eichel to Boston.
JH: It’s definitely not time right now. I’m sure the Boston Bruins will look into it after the season is over and they’ve cleared David Krejci’s $7.25 million cap hit from the books, but right now is definitely not the time.
Do you feel a trade with Arizona very soon? I do. We need it bad if we are really going to make a real run at it Joe.
JH: It’s certainly possible. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been a name linked with them and he would fit a big time need. Clayton Keller is an intriguing player, but the cost would be very high for him. Some are even clamoring for a Phil Kessel return to the Boston Bruins, which perhaps could be doable now that Claude Julien is no longer the head coach.
But I think Nashville or Detroit might end up being the trade partner with the Bruins, and names like Mattias Ekholm, Bobby Ryan, Anthony Mantha, Marc Staal or maybe New Jersey with Kyle Palmieri or Dmitry Kulikov. Some of those players would look very interesting in a Boston Bruins uniform and could address a lot of needs this time will have if they truly hope to make a realistic run at a Stanley Cup with an aging core group of players.
I’m tired of hearing the same old adage “We need to get better, hopefully from within the organization or we will look at changes.”
Every year it’s the same thing they rely WAY TOO MUCH on the top line and goaltending. They added Charlie Coyle, who in all fairness has been a good addition, and added Craig Smith recently but they can’t seem to generate anything consistently. They hope that their young guys will come in and be stellar, but it never works out no matter how good of a prospect they are unless its D-men its always the same thing…if the top line isn’t firing nobody can do anything.
Jake DeBrusk has been way too inconsistent. He’s starting to become similar to what Danton Heinen was, had great starts and showed a lot of promise but doesn’t seem to be able to elevate their game consistently.
Bruins need another center, winger and a D-man or 2 Wingers and a D-man. I’ve been a fan of Krejci but either he can’t run his line or his line can’t get their chemistry going. The 2nd and third lines are producing minimally if anything this season, and that has to change if the bruins want to be successful. That’s their Achilles heel, their scoring depth has been that way for a few years now.
It’s time for Don and Cam to figure out what they really want to achieve. If they are serious about trying to win while Bergy, Marchy and Rask are still useable then they need to shake the roster up, as it sits. Unless somehow this lineup miraculously figures out how to score outside of their top line, they aren’t going far in the playoffs let alone make them.
JH: I don’t disagree. Certainly, the injuries have played a part. But they are 24th in the NHL in offense right now and one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to even strength offense. They’ve lost a dimension on their PP with the absence of Torey Krug and that unit has dropped out of the NHL’s top-10 as well.
But can they make a move that’s going to significantly change all that? Or is it more about some of the guys they have, Coyle, DeBrusk etc., and some of the young guys to provide much of what they are looking for? As I stated above, a player like Mike Hoffman absolutely could have helped them this season and would have cost them very little. I think the Bruins screwed the pooch not signing a guy like that for short money, and then figuring out after the fact how he was going to fit into the lineup. As we’ve seen injuries and lack of performance can open up spots to what you might have once thought was a rock-solid lineup.
Do you think the SnyderCut, if it performs well, could change the course of the DCEU? #Haggbag
JH: Nope. Unfortunately, I think this is going to be a one-off and it’s not going to have the impact that many think it will have. Would I like to see an HBOMax series with Ben Affleck as Batman or a continuation of the shared universe that they set up? Absolutely. I just don’t want Zack Snyder anywhere near it.
I have my doubts if they are going to have the ability, the desire or the star actors willing to hang around and do all of that unless they are willing to shell out massive amounts of money. They should for the sake of their streaming service. But I have my doubts it’s going to happen beyond a few more movies (Flash, Aquaman 2, Shazam) that are already in the pipeline.
Good day Joe,
Let’s get to it and I’ll say let’s unload Don Sweeney! It’s been 10 years since the Cup, and the team is still riding on the coattails of Jeff Gorton. He has done nothing but, to put it simply, keep covering up his mistakes. This team on the ice is his doing and it’s been a constant downhill ride since. Come on Jeremy you want to squawk about your team, start within your own house. Can the guy get someone who can make this team a true Stanley Cup contender? Besides, the Perfection Line will be skating with walkers by the time the playoffs roll around. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, clean up the scouting system. It is their recommendations that the team works off of.
–Bob Boisclair (via Facebook fan page)
JH: The clamoring for Don Sweeney’s head seems to be gaining more traction than usual among the rabid section of the Boston Bruins fan base. Clearly nobody is perfect, and every NHL GM has their strengths and weaknesses, and big time free agent acquisitions aren’t one of Sweeney’s big strengths in hockey ops. He’s good at the bargain signings like Craig Smith, or when he got Riley Nash or Joakim Nordstrom.
Sweeney also doesn’t have a reputation for landing the big fish in the trade market either, aside from the Rick Nash deal that didn’t pan out and cost a significant price when considering how much Ryan Lindgren would have been helping the NHL team these days. And I didn’t love Boston’s last draft class either under understandably difficult circumstances due to COVID-19.
But the Boston Bruins are far from a mess and they should be better than they are while admittedly relying too much on their top line, goaltenders and coaching. Sweeney deserves credit for a team that’s been a regular playoff presence for the last five years and has managed to keep their team together while salary cap constraints have torn apart other teams.
Sweeney has good and bad moves just like every other GM, which can be picked apart or praised depending on what your agenda might be. A significant move or two might be enough to erase any of the early mistakes that have been made with this season’s group.
I think the run to the finals 2 years ago when after the crazy 1st round when the other top teams in the east got knocked out to clear the way made it look like this team was closer to being a cup contender than it really is. They have one great line, but they’re not deep enough.
–Andrew Mermuys (@jays49ersbruins)
JH: You’re not wrong on both counts. As long as the Boston Bruins have to beat a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs in order to win a Stanley Cup, I don’t see them as legit Cup contenders. I will continue to say what I’ve seen saying for a while: The best, last chance for this group to win a Cup was Game 7 on their home ice against the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and they couldn’t get it done. Until they have more young players leading this group rather than complimenting it, I don’t see them getting that far again anytime soon.
Joe…Your opinion on trading Krejci now and what might come back in return, and which young D-men look most promising to you long-term? Thanks! #HaggBag
–Jim Diffley (@jimdiffley)
JH: I don’t think the return on Krejci would be tremendously big and I’m not even sure what the interest would be in these tough financial times with his salary and $7.25 million cap hit. You might be able to get a veteran forward or defensemen that could help you short term (a la the Eric Staal/Marcus Johansson swap) or get a future asset or two (the Paul Stastny deal), but I’m not sure the return is going to be worth. If you needed to move Krejci’s money in a big package for a player like Oliver Ekman-Larsson then so be it, but I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be willing to waive his no-trade protection to head to Arizona either. Bottom with Krejci: It’s an interesting subject for fans to talk about, but I don’t think it’s a practical move where there’s a lot of value for the gaping hole they’d be leaving on an NHL roster that Bruins management still feels is playoff-caliber. I also don’t think it’s the way to treat a player that’s been a core member for the last 13 years either. Krejci deserves to be treated in the same vein as Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Rask etc. and they were very upfront with Zdeno Chara this offseason when it came to his long-term future with the organization.
That’s it for this week’s Hagg Bag, we’ll see you next week.